Sunday, June 30, 2013

Random Thoughts at Mid-Year

Hard to believe that 2013 is already half way in the books, but in one more flip of the calendar that's exactly where we will find ourselves.  It's been a much busier year than I anticipated coming into it, but that's not all bad.  

1.     I wondered what retirement would be like, not really expecting it to live up to my hopes - and, frankly, it's somewhere between what I hoped for and the daily work grind that preceded it.  It seems that much of my free time goes toward helping out family members where I can, especially when it means they would have to take off work to get something done.  Throw in regularly scheduled tutoring hours I spend with a grandson, and I hardly know where the days go sometimes - but that's a good thing.  

2.     I do wish I had the energy to tackle a few longterm projects that I have in mind, such as learning the finer points of French and dabbling in Spanish a bit more.  Same with taking some formal classes in subject areas like Civil War history, American and World Literature, and enjoying more road trips (music, history, and baseball related), but I'm not giving up on any of that yet.  Just need to get more settled in to the newness of all this, I think.

3.     Much of the first six retirement-months have been taken up dealing with insurance companies, Medicare sign-up, simplifying our investment strategy, and the like.  Thankfully, that's all pretty much done now -  but what a chore it all turned out to be, and much more time-consuming and stressful than I ever imagined it could be.

4.     I see that Jane Austen is probably the frontrunner to replace Charles Darwin on the British ten pound note when the next change is made.  The Brits have been using historical figures on their banknotes for over 40 years, but only two women have managed to make the cut during that entire period - and one of those has already been retired, so I think this is a great idea.  I would guess that the tenner is probably one of the most heavily used banknotes in the country, so Ms. Austen's face would be virtually everywhere.

5.     Here's a rather neat site (Placing Literature) that lets you "map scenes from novels."  With a lot of user-help, the site is slowly accumulating maps that place scenes from novels into real maps that can be used for exploring a new city - or even your own. From what I can tell, there are something like 2,000 locations mapped now, and the database will continue to grow as word gets out.  Sounds like great fun...and perfect for some of you guys, I'm willing to bet.  (Houston, fourth largest city in the U.S. has only one map entry...I need to have some fun with this thing.)

6.     As you can see from the sidebar here, in addition to book news and reviews, I often write posts on libraries, bookstores, publishers, and authors.  I admit, that some of the posts are about outrageous failings on the parts of some of those institutions, especially libraries and bookstores (but, hey, that's half the fun).  Every so often I get some negative feedback but no one has ever denied the truth of something I've posted (well, at least with the exception of one Brit who wanted to sue me all the way from England because of something a commenter posted on Book Chase).  But here's the curious bit.  In the last week, I have had five different public libraries/library systems quit following my "tweets" on Twitter.  No big deal, I know, but I have to wonder which of my posts was the one that finally pushed them over the edge.  I'll probably never know.

7.     My goal, coming into 2013, was to read and review 135 books this year, but it doesn't look as if I'm going to make it because I'm going to finish June with only 62 books read and 57 of them reviewed.  I think I see my problem, though.  Now that I'm not commuting to work, I'm unable to work recorded books into my daily schedule.  Even though I only "read" five of those last year (and fifteen in 2011), they are the difference between reaching my goal and not reaching it.  I'm planning to travel a bit in the second half of July, however, and might be able to make up some lost ground on the trip. 

8.  Question: if new print books do ultimately become rare (and expensive) whose fault will it be?  Are readers really rushing to convert to e-books and e-readers, or are they being pushed in that direction by publishers who see electronic reading as the most cost efficient way for them to publish?  I've tried e-books, and have even owned a dedicated e-reader for several years - Sony's very first model, in fact, but I just can't make the transition comfortably.  For some reason, I find it difficult to concentrate when reading an e-book and often have to re-read whole pages after my mind has drifted.   Maybe it's because I'm always being tempted to check my email or twitter account...

So much for thinking.


  1. I love your informative info on libraries. I would think all librarians would want that info and are really shooting themselves in the foot by not following you. And I am with you that I do not find e reading as natural as reading an actual book..... I have not determined what it is exactly but it takes me longer to become immersed in a story and I am more easily distracted. Have a good summer. We are celebrating Canada Day here in Canada tomorrow and I know July 4th is your national day so Happy July 4th to you!!

  2. That map website sounds interesting. I confess that I often look up the location of the stories I read, whether fiction or real. I really like being able to visualize where everything takes place.

    Plus I like adding to my knowledge of geography.
    A few years ago I was reading a book set in New Orleans, and they mentioned a character getting on the 10 hwy. I wondered if it was the same 10 that I grew up near, and got out the maps, and was excited to see that the 10 goes from LA all the way to the Atlantic.

    And i've read so many books set in London and have studied the Greater London maps often trying to get a feel for where the story takes place.

    The website shows I'm not the only one.

  3. Great post, Sam!

    1) I retired at 50. The first thing I discovered was that my days were still not long enough! My schedule, however, is my own. Love that you have time to tutor your grandson, a worthwhile activity in so many ways.

    2)Hope you find an arrangement that will allow you to learn and take classes and travel!

    3) The Medicare sign-up is something I've been putting off, but must do soon.

    4) Love Darwin, but good for the Brits to include another woman!

    5) Will check out the Placing Literature site.

    6) I wonder which post did it for the library tweets, too.

    7) Reading is more fun than reviewing.

    8) I'm now a dedicated e-book reader. NetGalley sames me money and trips to the library, but I still buy nonfiction.

  4. Happy Canada Day, Elizabeth. I hope you had a great one today. As for librarians, I think I've been focusing a lot more on the bizarre and embarrassing items lately and they might be growing tired of tone. Who knows?

    Glad to hear that someone else is as uncomfortable with an e-book reader as I am. It doesn't seem to be getting any easier for me, that's for sure.

  5. Susan, that mapping website sounds perfect for you. I've often wished I had something like this when visiting a new city or country, and now with a smart phone it's possible. I regret all the literary spots I missed while living in London and traveling around the country. I found a lot of great places but I'm sure that I missed more than I found.

  6. JenClair, don't wait to long on that Medicare thing. It's thoroughly confusing, and as you approach the big day, your mailbox will be filled and refilled with "information" from all the companies out there wanting to sell you supplemental coverage. It's nerve-wracking, to say the least, because there are just way too many options.

    My only kick with NetGalley is that almost all the titles I get through there (maybe all of them) show up in self-destructing files that are time-dated. I am not just a reader, I'm a book collector and I really don't see that it would be a big deal for the publisher to send out permanent files on request.